Emma Ruth Rundle
Some Heavy Ocean Album Review
Released May 20, 2014
Genre: Experimental Pop, Ambient, Psychedelic Pop, Singer/Songwriter
California singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emma Ruth Rundle has little cemented in terms of her solo pursuits. Infrequent ambient compositions that cropped up on her Bandcamp are about the size of her output aside to her involvement in past bands Marriages and Red Sparowes. Dipping her toes in elements of post-rock, psychedelia and sludge folk, Some Heavy Ocean titrates the worked in grooves of say Mazzy Star with an expansive and whirring production amassing to a style of singer-songwriter of shadow-casting proportions, a rarity in the epoch of songwriting minimalism.
For the most part, Emma’s vocals remain unfiltered, strong and purposeful, though overcast mixing often stifles and quells nuances and detail while overarching spaciness leaves lyrics muffled and her intonation to be our sentimental compass. In the same vein, swelling orchestrals blunt rather than heighten a sensation of Emma’s voice in ‘Arms I Know So Well’ dulling the melody. The guitars and overall vibes of the track persevere to a really experimental and dynamic shift in the second half of the track finding the sweet spot between ambition and reserve.
Not to say that all the instrumental accompaniments are always obnoxious or over-zealous, on ‘Shadows of my Name’ the lavish string sections intertwine with cradled remorse through forcefully strummed and broken chords. Similarly, the canonic fingerpicking in “Haunted Houses” builds interiors of stain glassed cathedrals and internal echo chambers – this inaugural theme of reflection reverberates throughout the whole record, inwardly and literally.
And the concept of opposing sounds or motions resonates more profoundly than initially considered. Her character throughout exhibits symptoms of polarisation between unwavering spite and vigour and a psyche of fragility and dependence like on ‘Run Forever’ where Emma reiterates “If we both go down / we go down together”. While the sentiment is adoring, Some Heavy Ocean, for it’s length, stretches and transverses more gritty atmospheres. Closing track ‘Living with the Black Dog’ features rumbling growls of callously stabbed guitars and prophetic imagery of clandestine wrenching and sad-comings.
Though for all the covered ground, it would benefit the album as a whole if Rundle had opted for more creative fillers than the counter-flowing trip-out that opens the record ‘Some Heavy Ocean’ and superfluous ‘Your Card in the Sun’ which serve up little in terms of fresh dynamic or direction considering they occupy 20% of the track-listing, a structural detriment to an otherwise balanced album.
So despite the left-field mixing and wasted opportunities, the beauty of Heavy Ocean is found frequently in moments of pensive tranquility like gentle ballad ‘Oh Sarah’ channeling lush harmonies among timid guitars further reinforcing my thesis of Emma as a character of two halves negotiating equally dark and light mental terrains. The feelings alluded throughout are the key to grasping this record, a documentation of inner turmoil and conflict presented in a jeweled casing, despite it’s dented exterior.
FAV TRACKS: Haunted House, Run Forever, Oh Sarah
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Some Heavy Ocean, Your Card In The Sun